When he was named the Thomasville Bulldogs’ 14th head coach in February, Leroy Ryals believed he had the recipe for success.
One year into his tenure at THS and Ryals’ cooking has produced favorable results as his hiring and the Bulldogs’ quick turnaround rank as the Times-Enterprise’s top sports story of 2013.
“I think I have the recipe to get it done,” Ryals said following his introduction as the school’s new coach Feb. 15. “My recipe is to simply be the best you can be every single day. Everyday you either get better or you get worse. That’s what Nick Saban told me. When you get out of bed, when your feet hit the ground, you have to have the confidence and mindset that you need to get better today.”
Ryals, a former Saban assistant at LSU for one year, and the Bulldogs certainly got better in 2013. After finishing 3-7 in 2012 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 1998, Ryals guided Thomasville to an 8-4 mark and the second round of the Class AA playoffs.
That turnaround also helped mark Thomasville’s celebration of its 100th season of football. THS, which was known as the Cyclones from 1913-1922 before J.K. Harper brought the Bulldogs moniker with him from the University of Georgia in 1923, has gone 686-321-46 all-time.
No. 2) Record-breaker
It wasn’t the way Adam Choice wanted to break Thomas County Central’s career rushing record, but the Yellow Jackets’ star reached the milestone in his final career game.
Entering Central’s regular-season finale needing 173 yards to surpass his cousin Joe Burns atop the Central rushing mark. Choice needed just one half to reach that as he finished the Harris County game with 262 yards in three quarters before leaving with a dislocated shoulder that ended his Central career. The Jackets also lost that game and their first-round playoff game a week later.
“It would mean a lot if I was able to do it but it would mean a lot more if I did it in a win,” Choice said prior to the Nov. 8 game at Hamilton. “But wither way, that’s not my main concern right now. I’m just trying to get a win Friday night, and if I do it, great; and if I don’t, oh well.”
He did it as he finished his four-year career with 5,095 yards rushing to top Burns’ total of 5,006 that was set in 1997. Not only did Choice pass Burns this year, but also former Central greats Debrale Smiley and Johnny Cooksey, too, as he scaled the list of all-time Jacket greats.
“I think about it every once in a while that I did do something here,” Choice, the all-area MVP, said following the season. “But at the same time, it wasn’t my main goal. I’m proud of it, but it wasn’t what I really wanted. I really want to still be playing right now.
“But I am proud that I accomplished something. It’s something to be proud of.”